Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP) Port Pirie

22 Jun 2021

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (16:23): All members of this house would be aware of the very important role the lead smelter plays in Port Pirie. The lead smelter is an outstanding employer. The company Nyrstar runs it under the leadership of Mr Dale Webb, a very capable leader who has many incredibly capable people working throughout that organisation and operation.

It is an unfortunate fact that lead smelters produce pollution, but the smelter at Port Pirie produces far, far less pollution than it used to. The EPA in South Australia oversees emissions from the smelter and does so extremely vigorously and thoroughly, and I have great faith that the company will continue the efforts it has put in place over the last several years with regard to reduction of emissions from the operation of the smelter.

There is, though, another very important issue connected with pollution and the lead smelter in Port Pirie, and that is legacy contamination. The Port Pirie lead smelter has been operating for about 130 years, and we would all accept that 50 years ago, 100 years ago or 130 years ago standards were not what they are today, yet the emissions back decades and decades into the past are in many cases still around, still in Port Pirie, in the sludge at the bottom of the river and buried in the dirt, which, when there is a dust storm or some form of excavation, can come to the surface.

I place no blame on any organisation or anyone who has ever worked at the smelter or been responsible for the smelter. These are legacy pollution issues, but they must be addressed. The previous government created a program called tenby10 back in the late 2000s, and then subsequently changed that program to the Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP).

As I mentioned before, the EPA oversees contemporaneous emissions from the smelter, but this TLAP program is very specifically there to deal with legacy emissions and other non-contemporaneous emissions, if that makes sense—for example, fugitive dust and things like that, which get across the town of Port Pirie. This is very important work, and when we came to government we respected the work that had been done and we wanted to give that TLAP program every opportunity to achieve the very best results possible.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to make some changes because it has not performed the way it was expected. I know the previous government, together with the member for Frome as a cabinet minister and key architect of this program, did everything they possibly could, but it has not delivered the results that we need. We are still seeing lead in blood results, and particularly in infants in levels that are far too high, so our government is taking action on this.

We are going to change some of the operation. We are going to change some of the parameters in partnership with the Nyrstar company, because it is a South Australian government and a company initiative. It is co-funded and overseen jointly, so in partnership with the company we are going to make some changes, and some changes that are going to be for the better for the people of Port Pirie. The first change has already been announced.

Mr Peter Dolan, who until very recently has been the 2IC of the EPA, is moving into the role of Executive Director of TLAP. Mr Dolan will lead the board and also lead very importantly the on-the-ground working group which is so important to getting this work done. Mr Dolan is actually moving from Adelaide to Port Pirie. He has bought a house in Port Pirie. He will live in Port Pirie. He will take this work home with him every night. He will be accessible and transparent and part of the community, and on the one hand an expert leader and on the other hand a local resident leading the charge.

There is much more to share on this initiative and this change, and the company and the government will do so in a very structured and coordinated way. Mr Peter Dolan starts his work officially on 12 July, so it would not be appropriate to share too much before that happens. However, let me tell you, Mr Speaker, and let me tell this chamber and let me tell the people of Port Pirie and the surrounding region, I am personally determined to make sure that the people of Port Pirie get a better deal under the Marshall Liberal government than they have received in the past. Very good work has been done in the past but not enough, and we are determined to do a better job for the people of Port Pirie.